In Case You Didn’t Notice: Royce White

Posted: March 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

Editor’s Note:  Well.  This is already dumb seeing as how I am the editor (and a terrible one, to boot).  So this is really just a note from me.  Anyway, I would like to apologize for the amount of time it has taken me to put this particular piece together.  I have talked to some of you who read this blog and you have expressed interest in what I present here. I try, to the best of my abilities, to give the people (by “people” I mean all 8 of you that read this regularly) what they want.  However, the subject matter of this article proved to be much more dense, broad, and far reaching than I initially thought and I felt it demanded a lot more time and “research” than I usually allow myself.  The ideas expressed in the subject article are not completely quantifiable and can’t really be discussed with any type of certainty.  I ask questions more than I provide answers simply because I have no answers.  It’s up to us to decide the right questions for ourselves and to seek out the answers to those questions.  As always, I encourage you to keep an open mind, but there’s also a chance that I’m full of shit.  Henceforth, a match and salt shaker may be necessary.  Enjoy.


———-

A little over a month ago, I happened to catch this piece about Royce White written by Chuck Klosterman for Grantland.com and decided I wanted to blog about it.  It turned out to be a much more complicated topic than I thought, so I decided to run it as my monthly-ish (bi-monthly for the time being) gimmick: In Case You Didn’t Notice…

 

So… In Case You Didn’t Notice:  Royce White know’s he’s crazy and that might actually make him brilliant… or not.

 

For those unfamiliar with the story and that didn’t do the assigned reading, Royce White was drafted by the leon-sandcastle-roger-goodell_crop_exactHouston Rockets in the first round of last year’s NBA Draft.  While this pick was not as controversial as Leon Sandcastle going number one on Super Bowl Sunday, there were some reasons for concern around drafting White.

 

See, Royce White has a fear of flying and expected the team that drafted him to provide assistance to his condition in some way.  At the time I was not aware of what his demands really were, or if he even had any demands.  I only really knew that the dude didn’t like to fly and that was going to be a problem for the team that ended up drafting him.

 

Fast forward to the day this article was published, he still hasn’t seen a minute of playing time with the Rockets.  Up to this point I pretty much didn’t care at all about a guy that I thought, for lack of a better phrase, was too much of a wuss to get on a plane.

 

Boy was I wrong.

 

What is that saying we always have about not judging people?  Don’t judge someone until you’ve snorted a mile of cocaine in their shoes?  No.  No, that’s not right at all.  Huh.  I’m stumped.  Sorry, I’ll figure it out, but you get the point.  Open proverbial mouth, insert proverbial foot.

 

As it turns out, Royce White thinks the majority of us are mentally ill.  Now, I understand how someone can take offense to being called mentally ill, but just take a second to think about what he’s saying here.  He says that its purely on a basis of chemical imbalance within the brain.  While we don’t entirely understand all the functions of the brain and its inner workings, we do know that chemicals in the brain determine a lot, if not all, of our behaviors.

 

For instance, some people need assistance falling asleep at night.  Usually this comes in the form of an over the counter supplement, prescription medication, or any combination of those two with alcohol and narcotics.  White’s argument comes into play when we assume the need for such assistance is due to some type of chemical imbalance in the brain.  Before we invented artificial light, our brains were more or less alerted when it was time to sleep by the lack of light outside.  Presently, we’re signaled when its time to sleep by us realizing that we’ve been on YouTube since 10 pm and the clock tells us that its 3am.

 

So, we have light and other distractions basically off setting our brain’s sleep patterns.  We no longer sleep solely because we need it.  A lot of times, we sleep when we run out of things to do.  It may be true that we had fewer things to distract us from sleeping when all we had was a cave to sleep in, but the fact remains that people don’t sleep like they should.  This change in behavior could suggest a change in brain chemistry, or an “imbalance” in the brain, if you will.  So whether it’s caused by life stresses, the invention of artificial light or the fact that you literally can’t wait till May 24th, there seems to be, on the surface at least, some sort of created imbalance.

Life’s stresses.  That’s also an interesting thing to ponder.  At one point in time as members of hunter gatherer tribes, our thoughts revolved around food, shelter, water, procreation and not much else.  Whether or not we were going to be attacked in the middle of the night by some wild beast might cross our minds from time to time too.  In today’s world we are constantly bombarded by other thoughts and questions from the second we wake up.  Do I have enough time to snooze?  Am I going to run into traffic?  Is this enough to eat for breakfast, my trainer said I need to eat more?  What is work going to be like today?  Is this article going to make sense to anyone but myself?

 

On and on and on.  Even things that try to tie us back to our hunter gatherer roots like the paleo diet leave a lot to be desired in terms of our reward systems.  The majority of us don’t hunt or gather any of the food we buy from Whole Foods, which might suggest that huge parts of our primitive reward systems are still being ignored.  I don’t know what the exact ramifications of these reward systems not being fulfilled are, but this leads me to believe that either they remain unfulfilled or we seek that fulfillment elsewhere.  And that too may be an example of this so called imbalance.

 

In all honesty, I can’t even say for sure what we as humans processed in our minds while we were evolving into what we are today.  But I can say for sure that the natural world around us has changed.  The introduction of currency and private ownership of property, along with our inclination to be an alpha species on the planet, has turned a simple hunter gatherer society into what modern society is today.

 

And this is where we come back to White and the article.  He argues that the struggle to maintain a decent living in modern society is the source of most, if not all of this stress.  However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that we can go back to our roots as a whole, either  It seems like a forgone conclusion that society as we know it will continue to move in the direction we have set.  Well… barring some sort of major near-extinction apocalyptic event, of course.

 

I do think White has a point in simply acknowledging that this was all a choice and that our continued acceptance to live in modern society is also a choice.  It’s true that I did not chose to be born in the United States of America, and I can choose to move to a more primitive locale if I felt it suited me.  But not a lot of us really want to do that.  And I’m not saying that it would be any easier, either.  It would, perhaps, be better for us in terms of our rewards systems as humans and we could get a certain sense of satisfaction from that type of lifestyle that we couldn’t from living in modern civilization.  But, I mean,  have you seen Game of Thrones and the 300px-Gumbleinternet and Gumbel to Gumbel??  There’s a certain sense of satisfaction from having those things in our lives as well.  So on that same note, it would be ridiculous to say that modern society isn’t awesome in it’s own right.

 

I suppose the point I’m getting at is that if there were ever a time when our mental faculties were in low demand, it would be now.  Sure, we have brilliant people creating amazing things to make our lives easier, and there are amazing people creating art like we’ve never seen.  But that’s not really what I mean.  Most of us reading this live under a blanket of comfort.  There is no constant threat of death or the need to always keep our minds and consciousness sharp as a means of physical survival.  We can be on autopilot for days on end and not really be in any danger.  There is very little demand for our animal instincts and to display such awareness nowadays might even be frowned upon.

 

However, one thing that we are threatened with is poverty.  Especially if you live in a first world country.  But that doesn’t seem to be what the human brain was wired for.  A daily task that generally does not interface with the natural world (read: a job) usually leads us away from poverty, but not much else.  And maybe it’s this perversion of the mind’s (assumed) intended use that allows us room to quarrel over trivial things and worry about things that ultimately don’t matter.  It allows us to neglect our most prized assets, our minds and bodies, in exchange for more material pursuits.  All this may lead to the very real possibility of us ending up like the humans in Wall-E.  Sure, you can laugh at the comparison if you want, but the truth is that a lot of us might not be that far from that existence.

WALL-E-humans_320

 

So, what if all this went away and we really only had our minds to rely on and not our devices or even modern civilization itself?  How advanced would our mental faculties be?  How much would we be able to expand our minds and consciousness if life wasn’t just about learning one trade in order to stay out of poverty?  Somewhere along the line, people in that very same predicament started creating what we have today.  So I suppose we can say its all a natural process, and that this would have happened eventually.  I don’t know and I’m not sure if anyone can really answer that question.  But it doesn’t mean that trying to get more in touch with our ancestral minds is a waste of time, either.

 

I’ll leave you guys with this:  It seems that there is far too much input in our lives nowadays that makes it hard to determine what is really important to us and what is not.  While we still need to worry about the essentials like food, shelter and water, we also have to be cognizant of the other aspects of modern life.  Bills, rent, mortgages, The Voice and the like are all things that add to the current human experience, but seem to take away from some of our more primitive needs.

 

Some of us function with constant distraction whether it be a TV or music constantly blaring in our ears and whatever we need to keep us entertained.  It’s hard to say how much of this adds to our experience and what exactly it takes from us.  Maybe you can start to figure this out on your own.  Does anyone know what its like to go an entire day without their ipod and to only have our own thoughts confront us anymore?

 

I’m not sure if I see mental illness everywhere like Royce White does.  And I’m not sure if the solution lies in changing the healthcare system as it exists.  Not initially, at least.  Life is very unpredictable, and the closer we get to thinking we have it all under control, the closer we get to having it all spiral out of control by something we never saw coming.  At the same time, we can’t live our lives in constant fear of things we can’t control or predict.  Perhaps this is when frequent and honest introspection comes into play.  If we are more or less in touch with what goes on in our minds, we may be more prepared to act accordingly to whatever happens around us.

 

It does seem like people get distracted by things that seem somewhat insignificant in the journey of life.  But the truth is that those things matter, too.   Everything matters, but at the same time, everything doesn’t matter.  The amount of information we receive on a daily basis far exceeds anything we were ever made for, but we somehow have to decipher it all.  There’s just no other way to live off the grid if you live in the first world.  The factors which we as individuals determine the most important are usually what dictates the rest of our lives.

 

In order to change a lot of the problems that White sees, we may need to start placing a little more value on what our primitive selves once held in such high regard and a little less value on what the modern world does.  In light of what I see around me, this is a very real possibility.  It might just take more people like Royce White to alert us to the fact that there really is a problem.

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